With the joy and excitement of the holiday season also comes feelings of stress and irritability. With both the good or bad, these heightened emotions can cause people to act more rashly or take more risks than normal. While we all wish for a season that’s calm and bright, accidents and conflicts do happen, and November and December, we see an uptick in the number of crimes committed before the New Year. Here are some of the most common crimes around the holidays.
Theft and Burglary
Topping the list of crimes during the holidays is theft. While it may be the season to be grateful for the things we have, it’s also a time to celebrate getting new things. More than ever, we’re making big purchases and spending money on new electronics, appliances and other expensive items. This mentality makes delivery trucks full of packages all too appealing to burglars this time of year, while crowded malls make hurried and distracted shoppers easy targets.
The penalties for shoplifting and other types of burglary depend on the value of the items stolen. Even items less than $150 are a summary offense with up to 90 days in jail and a $300 fine. High-value items of over $2,000 are considered a third-degree felony which can land you 7 years in prison and a $15,000 fine; quite possibly costing you much more than the item you actually stole.
Far too often people forget about this very common holiday offense, which may be why every year more and more people are hurt, killed or convicted for DUIs. The holidays are a time of celebrating, so from office parties to cookie exchanges, the number of drunk drivers double during this season. A few sips of eggnog or mulled wine at a holiday party is enough reason to hand over the keys, and let someone else drive. In addition to the risk of hurting yourself and someone else, that drink can result in fines, license suspension, probation, and jail time, which is a sure way to ruin the holiday season for you and your family.
Online shopping continues to increase in popularity each year, and it’s reported that this year’s online holiday sales have already topped $123.73 billion. With so many people trusting their most personal information like credit card numbers, social security numbers, bank accounts and more, we’re more vulnerable than ever. It’s the unfortunate risk we take in exchange for the convenience of getting all of our holiday shopping complete without ever leaving the couch. And as our uses for technology increase, so do the ways in which hackers can make their move, so it’s no surprise credit card and identity theft could be more prevalent than ever this season.
Credit Card/Identity Theft
And while we speaking of identity theft, it’s important to note that technology isn’t the only cause to blame. Even in crowded malls and shopping centers, scammers are looking for any way to get ahead, including stealing personal information as people open their wallets and pocketbooks to purchase gifts or donate to charity. There are a number of ways in which credit card theft can happen, so shoppers should be alert at all times.
A first offense for identity theft in Pennsylvania can result in as many as 5 years in prison or a $10,000 fine, while the amount of money involved in the crime could increase the severity of the punishment even further.
The best part about online shopping is having your purchases delivered right to your door. So as online ordering increases, so do unattended packages left on porches all over the neighborhood. These deliveries make it all too easy for a specific type of burglar, known as a porch pirate, to steals recently delivered packages before owners can claim them.
If you find yourself on the wrong end of a crime this season, don’t let the accusations or sentence ruin your holiday. Contact our experienced defense lawyers to make sure you have the representation you need to prevent a wrongful conviction or harsh punishments you don’t deserve.Read More
Being arrested is one of the most stressful situations a person can experience. Not only is it an embarrassing process, but can also lead to an array of subsequent consequences in your work and personal life. And even if your charges are eventually dismissed due to insufficient evidence or a not guilty verdict, you may still not feel complete relief. Will these dismissed charges show up on my record and background checks? Will they affect my ability to get a job? Can I get them removed?
If you were arrested or charged of a crime, but didn’t end up getting convicted, you may be asking yourself these questions. As one of the best criminal defense attorneys in Philadelphia, we have your answers. Here’s what you need to know about the impact of a dismissed case on your criminal record.
The Making of a Criminal Record
When you’re arrested, the first record created and shared between police departments is the fact of your arrest. This information is most commonly known as a RAP sheet, or Record for Arrests and Prosecutions, and can show up on some background checks.
A criminal record is then created as soon as you are taken to court, noting information such as your arraignment, the charges and any other court appearances that follow. With the help of an experienced criminal defense attorney, you may be able to prevent a criminal record and any formal charges before your arraignment by working a deal with the prosecutor. As your best case, it’s essential that you contact an experienced defense attorney to act quickly.
If you do end up charged in court, you’ll still have a court record even if the case is later dismissed. This report will indicate that you were charged and taken to court, but were not convicted.
The Effects of a Dismissed Charge
The good news is that most employers will specifically phrase criminal history questions as “Have you ever been convicted of a crime?” This is because a conviction is proof of quilt under Pennsylvania law. Even if you have been arrested or charge, a dismissal supports the fact that there was not enough evidence to prove you guilty of the crime, and many employers do recognize the difference.
To put it simply, the question of whether or not a dismissed charge will show up on a background check isn’t quite clear cut. Chances are both not guilty verdicts and dismissals will show up on your criminal record, but there is a difference between cases that become charges and appear in a criminal trial verses arrests that never lead to any formal charges. And of course, the effect this information will have on future job opportunities depends on the individual employer, so it’s best to be prepared on how to handle the conversation if it arises.
If your court case has already been dismissed and you want to see if you’re eligible for an expungement, or the removal of any past criminal charges from your record, our experienced defense attorneys can help get you the answers you need in just one phone call. Contact our law offices to discuss your specific case and take action today.Read More
When you’re convicted of a crime, probation is commonly part of the sentence. But the terms of probation are not one-size-fits all. And with the punishments for breaking probation being so severe in Pennsylvania, it’s crucial to have the most experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney helping you understand the specific conditions of your probation.
If you read our blog on probation violations, then you know that a probation sentence allows an offender to remain in the community under the state’s watch to ensure that the law and all the conditions of the sentence are met. While often available to first-time, nonviolent offenders, the types of Philadelphia probation vary based on the person’s background and the specific circumstances of the crime. Here’s a closer look at each type of probation placed on offenders in Pennsylvania.
- Informal Probation
Also known as unsupervised probation or court, this type of probation is available to low-risk offenders, and typically require you to simply pay your fines and not commit any violations of the law during the probation period. The judge will often order a suspended jail sentence as well, which you can avoid as long as you pay your fines and avoid any violations during your probation.
- Supervised Probation
When an offender is placed on supervised probation (or formal probation), they are required to periodically report to a probation officer- from weekly visits or monthly phone calls- while also following typically stricter conditions established by the court. Other provisions may include drug testing, counseling, community service and more, depending on the crime. If you fail to do so, you can be sent to jail almost immediately.
- Community Control
If you’re placed on community control, you’re essentially on a jail sentence without the prison. As the strictest form of probation, you’ll be monitored at all times, typically through the GPS of an ankle tracker while on house arrest. In this situation, the offender is not permitted to leave their home, while required to also meet any other specific requirements of their probation.
- Shock Probation
Shock probation came into prominence in the late 1990’s. First, offenders will be required to serve a short jail or prison sentence, typically around 30 days. This tactic to “shock” the offender into compliance with the probation terms. Upon being released, the judge will bring you back into the court to be placed on a standard supervised probation program for the remainder of your sentence.
- Intensive Supervision
Intensive supervision probation (or IPS), as the name suggests is a highly structured program involving rigorous supervision. Similar to house arrest, the offender must comply to the strict terms of their probation, but are not required to stay at home. Their sentence will typically involve at least 8-12 meetings with their probation officer each month, as well as face-to-face and telephone contact at all hours of the day, 7 days a week.
With the different types of probation in Pennsylvania with various conditions that can alter your entire lifestyle, it’s especially important to consult Philadelphia’s best criminal defense lawyers in regards to your specific situation. Our attorneys can help you understand all the terms of your probation and help you preserve your rights, so contact us today.Read More
thats the crazy pWhile most disorderly conduct charges are considered a summary offense (or the most minor type of criminal offense in Pennsylvania) it doesn’t make facing the penalty any less scary. If you or someone you know has been charged with disorderly conduct in PA, here’s everything you need to know to handle your situation and minimize the resulting consequences.
What Does Disorderly Conduct Mean?
Disorderly conduct is a criminal charge that doesn’t pertain to any one action in particular, but instead, a variety of actions that could be described as “unruly.” This means intentionally and/or recklessly causing a risk of public inconvenience, annoyance or alarm. And while Pennsylvania’s disorderly conduct law is not designed to punish just any action that causes irritation or annoyance to others, it is meant to protect the peace and civility of the community by covering a wide range of threatening or tumultuous behaviors.
Some of these behaviors and actions include:
- Violating noise ordinances
- Engaging in fighting or violent conduct
- Disturbing the peace
- Public drunkenness
- Obscene language or gestures
- Creating a physically hazardous condition that serves no licit purpose
Penalties for Disorderly Conduct
As a summary offense, a disorderly conduct sentence may include up to 90 days in jail, as well as a fee of up to $300. In most cases, a guilty individual will simply receive a citation or small fine. However, if the Commonwealth can prove that the defendant had the intent to cause substantial harm or serious inconvenience to the public, then it may be punishable as a misdemeanor of the third degree. These cases typically involve alcohol or public drunkenness, the serious harm or injury to another person or major property damage. As a misdemeanor charge, the individual may be looking at a maximum of 1 year in jail and/or a $2,500 fine.
How to Fight Disorderly Conduct Charge
Since disorderly conduct law is so broad and can be interpreted quite differently, it’s important to take immediate action to develop the right strategy to minimize your sentence. The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania is required to prove every single element of the statute, so a typical strategy is to challenge the evidence which supports how these specific elements individually. For example, describing the “intent” or classifying the “substantial” and “serious” inconvenience. Another approach is disputing the “public” aspect of the crime. Considering the term “public” applies to a place in which a substantial group has access, there may be a chance for acquittal if this cannot specifically be supported.
Other possible defenses may include:
- Lack of intent
- Lack of knowledge that the individual was causing unfavorable conditions
- Self-defense against another’s threatening or violent actions
- Age (minor vs. adult)
- Provocation for the conduct
Disorderly conduct charges are primarily at the judge’s discretion, which is why additional aspects of the crime, such as being a first-time offense or even the location where the conduct occurred could be crucial to help reduce your charges if presented properly.
If you’re looking for an experienced criminal defense attorney who understands the necessary steps to negotiating an alternative resolution for the reduction or dismissal of your disorderly conduct charge, contact the Bill Brennan Law offices today.Read More
Anyone who is arrested for a serious crime wants to imagine the best possible outcome if they’re convicted. But few actually know what factors are taken into consideration to determine a criminal sentence. Fortunately, Pennsylvania law requires judges to recognize various facts and situations unrelated to whether or not the defendant is actually guilty of a crime, but that could be grounds for a more lenient punishment.
Mitigating vs. Aggravating Factors
Judges are required to consider two types of factors while determining a convicted person’s criminal charges in PA: mitigating and aggravating. Mitigating factors include any evidence provided regarding the defendant’s character or the circumstances of the specific crime that could support leniency. In opposition, aggravating factors are any relevant circumstances that were presented throughout the trial which would warrant the harshest penalty appropriate.
While some circumstances simply don’t permit consideration, a good criminal defense attorney will present all the relevant facts of the case, no matter how small or minor they may be, as it is ultimately up to the judge to decide which factors will have an impact on the sentence. This may mean that very personal aspects of the defendant’s life will be revealed in court, but any admissible detail could affect the outcome.
What Mitigation Factors Can Help Reduce My Charges?
It’s up to the defendant and their criminal defense lawyer to provide convincing facts if they hope to achieve mitigation. This data is typically viewed in two categories: information about the offense and information about the offender.
Some of these mitigating factors include:
Role in the Crime
If the defendant played a relatively minor role in the crime, such as accepting compensation to transport illegal drugs verses engaging in drug trafficking in Philadelphia, this may be a mitigating factor.
Victim culpability refers to the participation or initiation of a crime. Whether someone started a fight in a domestic violence attack or reacted in defense with more force than necessary could impact the sentence.
A crime was committed while acting out due to emotional distress or substantial provocation is considered an unusual circumstance. This may include a DUI charge for choosing to drink and drive on the same day the defendant lost their job and broke up with their significant other.
Level of Harm
If no one was hurt as a result of the crime, this could also serve as a mitigating factor. An example being a carjacking was committed or property was stolen without harming the victim or anyone else in the process.
The motive of a crime may also be worthy of mitigation depending on the situation and relative facts. This would apply to a situation like a defendant stealing food from a grocery or convenience store in order to feel his starving family.
Drug or Alcohol Addiction
If drugs or alcohol were involved, it must have contributed to the crime, not just serve as a motive or excuse. The defendant would likely need to show a concerted effort in rehabilitation before a relapse resulted in the illegal action while under the influence for it to be a considerable factor.
There are a number of other mitigating factors that a judge will analyze during sentencing, which is why it’s so important to have the best criminal defense attorney to advise you on the exact information and circumstances that will reduce your charges and protect your future. Contact our experienced attorneys today to discuss your case through a free consultation.Read More
When you hear the term “harassment,” many people think of calling someone incessantly or using defamatory words. And while these certainly qualifies under the legal definition of harassment in PA, there are many more types of conduct that constitutes harassment which you may not realize. Or if you are aware and want to learn how to file harassment charges in PA, then you’ve also come to the right place. Here’s what you need to know about criminal harassment penalties and charges for your case.
In Pennsylvania, harassment is either considered a summary offense or a misdemeanor of the 3rd degree, depending on the conduct that occurred. While both classifications are considered minor criminal acts (summary offenses being less serious than a misdemeanor), it certainly does not negate the emotional impact the situation may have on a victim or even the accused.
What are the harassment laws in PA?
The first component of a harassment charge in Pennsylvania is proving that something was said or communicated. While in the past, this was based on verbal communication and phone conversations, today’s use of technology have led many statutes to now cover email, social media sites, texts and other telecommunications as well.
Secondly, the communication must provide evidence of intent to harass, annoy, torment or embarrass the victim. Each state provides examples of what may constitute as harassment under the law. In Pennsylvania, the following are sufficient for a misdemeanor conviction:
- Engaging in a course of conduct or repeatedly commits acts which serve no legitimate purpose
- Communicating to or about such other person any lewd, lascivious, threatening or obscene words, language, drawings or caricatures
- Communicating repeatedly in an anonymous manner
- Communicates repeatedly at extremely inconvenient hours
While the first example could possibly be graded as a summary offense depending on the extent of the situation, the following are explicit examples of a summary offense:
- Violent striking, hitting or kicking of a person, or threatens to do the same
- Following the other person in or about a public place or places
It’s important to note that this list is not all-inclusive. Threatening physical harm, making obscene proposals, stalking or any unwanted, repeated communication or actions all fall under the PA crimes code for harassment and could result in criminal harassment penalties.
And while some phrases like “I’m going to kill you” or “Do this or else” are used more casually today than they were in the past, they can be interpreted in different ways based on the intent and context of the comment. During a friendly soccer game where no other comments were made is one thing, while in the parking lot during a one-on-one confrontation after the game is another. In either situation, the state would have to present evidence that the comment was meant to harass ror alarm the victim and was likely to do so.
Punishment for harassment in PA
While most summary offenses do not result in jail time, not all misdemeanor charges do do either. However, if the judge finds the behavior particularly hateful or there is an existing criminal record involved, it is possible. Even so, the collateral damage of a charge on your record is more commonly the outcome. They can negatively impact your ability to secure employment, professional certifications, financial aid or legal immigration status.
If you’ve been charged, it’s vital that you speak to our experienced criminal lawyers in Philadelphia to determine and achieve the best possible outcome for you.
How to file harassment charges in PA
The first step is to call your local police, and let them know you would like to file a report for harassment. You can provide them with any text messages, emails or other evidence you may have. Some police departments will allow you to file a report through their website, but you should follow up in-person or over the phone as well.
If you have been a victim of harassment or are on the receiving end of false allegations, it’s imperative to have experienced criminal defense attorneys to help you through the legal process and get you the justice you deserve. Contact us to speak to one of our knowledgeable lawyers about your case today.Read More
From intensive supervision and shock probation to unsupervised probation, there are so many different types of probation that one can serve, but each state has their own specific consequences when you violate your probation. If you’re currently on Philadelphia probation, you should know what’s specifically at risk if you violate your probation in PA.
So what is probation?
Probation can be defined as an alternative to imprisonment for someone who is convicted of or pleads guilty to a criminal offense. This type of consequence allows you to remain in the community, but under specific conditions and the supervision of a local probation officer. It sounds a lot less daunting than the alternative, but the situation can easily get a lot worse if you’re not on your best behavior during this time.
How do you violate probation?
Every state is different, as is every probation. In many cases, the judge will assign additional provisions specific to the individual sentencing, but overall Pennsylvania has general rules for what happens if you break your violation, and what qualifies as doing so.
To start, there are two types of probation violations in PA: technical violations and criminal offenses.
These violations occur when the terms and conditions that the judge has put in the probation agreement are not followed. By accepting your probation, you’re agreeing to abide by certain terms in order to stay out of jail. Some of these terms may include the following:
- Contacting your officer as scheduled
- Passing drug tests
- Notifying probation officers about a move or job change
- Remaining employed or in school
- Completing mandatory drug or alcohol counseling
- Paying fines, fees and restitution
If you commit another crime while on probation, it’s an automatic violation of the probation agreement and your probation officer has the right to arrest you immediately. You’re guaranteed a probation hearing under state law, as well as the presence of an attorney to represent you. As a result of the hearing, the judge can modify your probation, add stricter terms or determine another course of action.
What happens if you violate your probation for the first time in PA?
Consequences for first-time probation violations tend to result in less serious consequences than for subsequent violations, but there are many factors that determine this for each case. They include:
- Whether or not your probation officer reports the violation
- The seriousness and nature of the violation
- If you face new criminal charges
A judge has a lot of discretion in terms of the penalties that may follow. From a strict warning to possible jail time, there are varying degrees of probation violation sentencing. While he or she may try to revoke your probation all together, an experienced Philadelphia criminal defense attorney can help review the facts of your case and fight for modified terms or an alternative penalty. Possible outcomes of a violation may be:
- Revocation of your probation, resulting in jail time for the rest of the original sentence
- Revocation of your probation and another sentence, up to the legal maximum for your original crime
- Mandatory enrollment in drug or alcohol rehabilitation or counseling program
- Probation extension
- Modified probation terms
- Additional community service
Let’s not forget that any violations to your probation could also have personal ramifications as well. The resulting charges or jail time could cost you a job, the pursuit of your degree or affect your family life.
If you’d like to learn more about what happens if you violate your probation in Pennsylvania or have already received a violation of probation charge and need a knowledgeable criminal defense lawyer, we can help you understand your rights and fight to minimize your sentence and protect your future. Contact us today.Read More
When you’re charged with a crime, you can only hope that it will all just go away. The truth is there’s an actual possibility this could happen before ever going to trial. You’re thinking the only way to get things back to normal and move forward is if your felony charges are dropped or dismissed, and while this is true, you may not realize the different legal meanings the two words have. So what’s the difference between charges dismissed vs. dropped?
Meaning of Charges Dropped
When criminal charges are filed by a prosecutor, it’s because they believe they can prove their case. That doesn’t necessarily mean a judge or jury will agree with them, but they feel confident that their evidence is strong enough to convince others of their argument. If at any point throughout the process, even before the charges have been officially filed, the prosecutor or arresting officer feels their case is not strong enough to hold up in court, they are able to drop the charges all together. But only the prosecuting party is able to do so.
Other reasons felony charges may be dropped:
- The victim around who the case was built decides not to cooperate
- The attorney of the prosecuting party is responsible for multiple cases at the time, causing them to allocate their time and resources to other cases of high priority.
- The defendant is willing to cooperate with prosecutors to help resolve other crimes or in another situation that enables the attorney to work out a deal or get the charge dropped altogether
Meaning of Charges Dismissed
In a criminal case, the defendant is assumed innocent until proven guilty. This means that the prosecutors must prove beyond reasonable doubt that the defendant in fact committed the crime. By choosing to move for dismissal, the defendant is arguing that the accusing party does not have enough evidence to meet this standard for the jury to find him guilty. The motion is then taken into the judge’s hands, and if he agrees, the case will be dismissed.
A case can also be dismissed if the prosecutor has made a fundamental or procedural legal error during the time of the arrest, booking, interrogating, etc. by the prosecuting party or the evidence was obtained unlawfully in any way. In either case, charges can only be dismissed by the court and only after charges have been filed. Working with a skilled defense attorney is your best chance to ensure the protection of your rights and get your case dismissed.
What about Reducing a Charge?
It’s also possible to have a charge reduced. This is typically an option if there’s not enough evidence to support the initial charge, but enough to convict the defendant of a lesser charge.
In this case, the prosecutor will agree to dismiss the original charge with the offer of a “plea bargain agreement,” which requires the defendant to plead guilty or no contest to the lesser charge.
If you’ve been charged with a crime, you’ll want a knowledgeable criminal defense attorney working to protect your rights and fight for the best outcome possible. With a number of reasons for cases to be dropped or dismissed, make sure you have the best team on your side to defend your freedom and reputation, so you can move on with your life.
For more information on how to get a case dropped or how to get a case dismissed, contact us to discuss your specific legal situation today.Read More
While some states would regard driving under the influence as a mere traffic violation, leaving the convicted with just a slap on the wrist, in Pennsylvania, you won’t be so lucky. With DUI penalties in PA considered a criminal offense, you’re looking at serious consequences for both first and second time convictions.
Choosing to drive under the influence not only puts you and others at risk on the road, but it puts you at risk of consequences you’ll suffer for years to come. However, sometimes these laws are overly prosecuted or unfairly charged, and you may not know what to expect in order to protect yourself. So here’s what you need to understand about the actual cost of a drink when it comes to a PA DUI.
General Information on DUI Charges in Pennsylvania
About 15 years ago, the legal limit of alcohol was lowered from .10 to .08 by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. From this benchmark, there are three levels of a DUI.
- .08 to .099% BAC = General Impairment
- .10 to .159% BAC = High BAC
- .16% & up = Highest BAC
While these levels certainly impact the severity of a punishment, certain classifications may also play a role in your sentencing. Underage drivers, school vehicles and buses, commercial drivers, drivers who refuse a breathalyzer and drivers who cause injury or property damage to others could face harsher punishments under PA law.
Penalties for First Offense DUI in PA
General Impairment: Up to 6 months of probation and fines of approx. $300
High BAC: 48 hours to 6 months in jail and fines of $500- $5,000; license suspension for 12 months
Highest BAC: 72 hours to 6 months in jail and fines of $1,000- $5,000; license suspension for 12 months
If you’re experiencing a first-time DUI offense, you’re not typically looking at jail time, simply based on your BAC, but there are stipulations. If your BAC is higher than .099, jail time should now be a concern, while being under 21 years of age could mean up to 6 months of jail time, regardless of your BAC level.
Penalties for Second DUI in PA
While some may deem the punishments for a first-time offense as rather extreme, the ultimate goal is to prevent repeat offenders. If you’ve received a 2nd DUI in PA, you’re automatically facing jail time of 5 days to 5 years.
General Impairment: 5 days to 6 months in jail and fines of $300- $2,500; license suspension for 12 months
High BAC: 30 days to 6 months in jail and fines of $750- $5,000; license suspension for 12 months
Highest BAC: 90 days to 5 years in jail and fines of $1,500- $10,000; license suspension for 18 months
All BACs: Up to 150 hours of community service and ignition interlock device installed for 1 year; Enrollment in Alcohol Highway Safety School and an Alcohol and Drug treatment program
Whether you’ve been charged with a first or second offense DUI in Pennsylvania, there’s a lot at stake for your future, and it’s important to make sure you aren’t fighting the battle alone. As Philly’s DUI Lawyer, we’ll help you review all aspects of your case to protect your rights, ensure a fair hearing and help you move forward.
Contact us to set up a free consultation today.Read More
Questions: Do I have to take the Breathalyzer test in Pennsylvania?
Answer: You have the right to refuse, but doing so will leave you with a host of legal complications, including loss of driving privileges for one year.
At Brennan Law Offices in Philadelphia, we have over 25 years of experience defending people against charges of drunk driving.
A concept called “Implied consent” comes into play in DUI arrests in Pennsylvania. Implied consent means that if you are driving a vehicle on a Pennsylvania road, it is implied that you automatically consent to take the Breathalyzer test or blood alcohol test in the event you are arrested. If you refuse to take the test, you automatically lose your driver’s license for 12 months.
Refusing to take the Breathalyzer test is a legal issue played out in civil courts, as opposed to criminal courts. A knowledgeable defense lawyer can help you with the criminal defense aspects of a DUI arrest as well as the civil charges you will face for refusal. Our attorneys are equipped to help you fight back against criminal charges and make the strongest case possible for keeping your driver’s license.Read More